Debunking the myths about diabetes

Diabetes involves the pancreas, an organ in the body, either not producing enough insulin, insulin that doesn’t work properly or any insulin at all.

Insulin is the hormone which enables glucose to enter the body’s cells so it can be used as fuel to provide the energy everyone needs to go about their daily lives. It is also vital for life.

Here are some of the main misconceptions about diabetes:

​​1. People with diabetes are unable to eat sugar

Wrong. It’s important that people with diabetes eat a balanced diet, which can include sugar, so long as it’s in moderation.

2. Type 2 diabetes is only mild
Wrong. No kind of diabetes is mild. If Type 2 diabetes isn’t managed properly it can result in very serious, even life threatening, complications. If diabetes is managed effectively the risk of complications is significantly reduced but that doesn’t mean the condition isn’t serious.

3. Only overweight people get Type 2 diabetes

Wrong. About one in five people with Type 2 diabetes are a normal weight, or underweight. The media often associate the condition with being overweight and obese but it’s completely wrong to suggest just overweight people are affected.

4. People with diabetes have to eat special food

Wrong. This is a total myth. The title ‘diabetic’ is regularly used on sweet foods where often sugar or other sweeteners are used to replace sugar. However, these foods often still affect blood glucose levels, they can be expensive and, in some cases, can lead to adverse side effects.

5. People with diabetes will go blind and have their legs amputated

Wrong. It’s true that diabetes is a cause of blindness and does lead to many amputations each year. But those people with the condition who control their blood pressure, glucose levels, weight and stop smoking significantly boost their chances of not developing complications. This means most people with diabetes can prevent blindness and amputation especially if they attend their annual diabetic health check.

6. Diabetes causes dangerous driving

Wrong. The danger for people driving when they have diabetes is if hypoglycemia occurs where blood sugar levels drop. Hypoglycemia can result in seizures or unconsciousness but is preventable and the vast majority of people with diabetes at risk of hypoglycemia take the necessary precautions before driving. Figures show that diabetics are as safe on the road as anyone else.

7. Diabetic people shouldn’t play sport

Wrong. Well known diabetic sportsmen and women, including Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave and tennis champion Arthur Ashe, have proved this to be a complete myth. People with diabetes should exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle and there’s no reason why people with diabetes can’t participate in sports and activities in most cases.

8. There are many jobs people with diabetes can’t do

Having diabetes doesn’t prevent people from having a job and, due to improvements in the treatment of diabetes, jobs that people with diabetes are ineligible for are few and far between. The armed forces may exclude people with diabetes from specific roles, such as serving on the front line, but other positions will be acceptable.

9. People with diabetes are prone to illness

Wrong. People with diabetes aren’t more likely to become ill. The issue surrounding illness for anyone with diabetes is that it can affect the management of blood glucose levels which can make an illness or infection more severe. That’s why people with diabetes are advised to have their free flu jab.

10. Diabetes is contagious

Wrong. Diabetes is deemed a non-communicable illness which means it can’t be passed on in any way from person to person. People with diabetes may pass on the likelihood of getting the condition to their children but not the condition itself.